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These remarks apply to the general contexture of the comedy, and the greater part of the dialogue. But it must not be overlooked that the whole is not the work of a mere boy. It had been played before Queen Elizabeth, according to the title-page of the edition of 1598, “this last Christmas,” and, as it then shortly after appeared “newly corrected and augmented,” it is probable that the author had followed the fashion of his times, when (according to Mr. Collier) “it was common for dramatists to revise and improve their plays, when they were selected for exhibition at court." It does ot imply any great presumption of criticism, or demand peculiar delicacy of discrimination, to separate many of these acknowledged additions from the lighter and less valuable materials in which they are inserted. Rosaline's character of Biron, in the second act, and her dialogue with him at the winding up of the drama, and Biron's speeches in the first and at the end of the fourth act, are among the passages which appropriate themselves at once to the period of the composition of the MIDSUMMER Night's Dream, or the Merchant of Venice, not less in the mood of thought than in the peculiar poetic style and melody.
The story itself is but slight, the incidents few, and the higher characters, though varied, are but sketchily drawn—at least, taking the author's own maturer style of execution in that way as the standard. There was, therefore, no very great effort of original invention in either respect; but whatever there is, either of plot or character, belongs to the author alone; for the diligence of the critics and antiquarians, (Stevens, Skottowe, Collier, etc.,) who have been most successful in tracing out the rough materials of romance, tradition, or history used by Shakespeare for the construction of his dramas, have entirely failed in discovering any thing of the kind in any older author, native or foreign, to which he could have been indebted on this occasion. It is well worthy of remark that Shakespeare, in his earlier works, bestowed more of the labour of invention upon his plot and incidents than he generally did afterwards, when he usually selected known personages, to whom and to the outline of whose story, the popular mind was already somewhat familiar,-thus, probably quite unconsciously, adopting from his own experience the usage of the great Greek dramatists. It may be that the impress of reality, which the circumstance of familiar names and events lends to the drama, more than compensated for any pleasure that mere novelty of incident could give either to the author or his audience. But, in his characters of broad humour, Shakespeare is here, as he always is, original and inventive. Although the Pedant and the Braggart are characters familiar to the old Italian stage, yet if the dramatist derived the general notion of such personages, as fitted for stage-effect, from any
Italian source, (for the presumption is but remote,) still he assuredly painted them and their affectations from the life; these being characters, as Coleridge justly observes, which “a country town and a schoolboy's observation might supply."
All the personages of broader humour, in spite of their extravagances and droll absurdities, have still an air of truth, a solidity of effect, which at once indicates that, however heightened and exaggerated, still they came upon the stage from the real world, and not from the author's fancy; and this solidity and reality tend to give a more unreal and shadowy tone to the other and more courtly and poetic personages of the comedy. Such a remark can apply only to Shakespeare's very early dramatic works. The other comic creations of the second stage of the Poet's career-Launcelot Gobbo, or Falstaff-do not command the temporary illusion of the stage more than the nobler personages with whom they are contrasted. Juliet is as true and real as her Nurse.
The play in the folio of 1623 appears to have been printed from the first quarto, as it retains several errors of the press, which could not have found their way into a different manuscript. There are, however, some few variations ; and the collation of the two copies, with the aid of the metre and rhyme, enable the editors to agree in a very satisfactory text.
PERIOD OF THE ACTION, MANNERS, AND COSTUME. “ There is no historical foundation for any portion of the action of this comedy. There was no Ferdinand, King of Navarre. We have no evidence of a difference between France and Navarre, as to possessions in Aquitain. We may place, therefore, the period of the action as the period of Elizabeth, for the manners are those of Shakespeare's own time. The more remarkable of the customs which are alluded to are pointed out in the notes. Cesare Vecellio, at the end of his third book, (edit. 1598,) presents us with the general costume of Navarre at this period. The women appear to have worn a sort of clog, or patten, something like the Venetian chioppine; and we are told in the text that some dressed in imitation of the French, some in the style of the Spaniards ; while others blended the fashions of both those nations. The well-known costume of Henri Quatre and Philip II. may furnish authority for the dress of the King and nobles of Navarre, and of the lords attending on the Princess of France, who may herself be attired after the fashion of Marguerite de Valois, the sister of Henry III. of France, and first wife of his successor, the King of Navarre. (Vide Montfaucon, · Monarchie Française.')"-Knight.
SOURCE OF THE PLOT AND CHARACTERS. I have above expressed the decided opinion that the plot of this comedy and its characters are wholly of the young Poet's own creation, with no other aid to his invention than that furnished by the general literature of his age and country, and, as to the comic personages, by such laughable individual peculiarities as fell within his acute though as yet limited observation of life and manners. In this opinion we have the concurrence of those higher critics, who, like Coleridge, argued from the internal evidence of the comedy, with others of a humble rank, who, like Skotlowe, have devoted themselves to seeking out every fragment of old romance or legend which Shakespeare might possibly have read and been indebted to for even the most ordinary incidents used in his dramas. Skottowe honestly, though a little reluctantly, confesses that here his “occupation is gone;" and says that “ Love's Labour's Lost is one of the very few plays of its author, that are not ascertained to have been founded on some previously
existing work. Its incidents, however, are so simple, and in such entire conformity with the chivalric and romantic feeling of the sixteenth century, that they would readily present themselves to any mind imbued with the fashionable literature of the day.” Stevens, and one or two others, are not so ready to relinquish the idea of some possible original. Mr. Collier has stated the substance of their conjectures, on the probability of which the reader will judge for himself. After stating Coleridge's conviction that “the internal evidence was indisputable that this was one of Shakespeare's earliest dramas,” and that the characters were such as he might have impersonated from his own mind and schoolboy observation, Mr. Collier adds:
"The only objection to this theory is, that at the time Love's LABOUR's Lost was composed, the author seems to have been acquainted in some degree with the nature of the Italian comic performances; but this acquaintance he might have acquired comparatively early in life. The character of Armado is that of a Spanish braggart, very much such a personage as was common on the Italian stage, and figures in Gl’ Ingannati,' (which, as the Rev. Joseph Hunter was the first to point out, Shakespeare saw before he wrote his Twelfth Night,) under the name of Giglio. In the same comedy we have M. Piero Pedante, a not unusual character in pieces of that description. Holofernes is repeatedly called the 'Pedant' in the old copies of Love's Labour's Lost, while Armado is more frequently introduced as the ‘Braggart than by his name. Stevens, after stating that he had not been able to discover any novel from which this comedy had been derived, adds that the story has most of the features of an ancient romance ;' but it is not at all impossible that Shakespeare found some corresponding incidents in an Italian play. However, after a long search, I have not met with any such production; although, if used by Shakespeare, it most likely came into England in a printed form."
SCENE I.--Navarre. A Park, with a Palace in it. Enter the King, BIRON, LONGAVILLE, and
DUMAINE. King. Let fame, that all hunt after in their lives, Live register'd upon our brazen tombs, And then grace us in the disgrace of death; When, spite of cormorant devouring time, Th' endeavour of this present breath may buy That honour, which shall bate his scythe's keen
edge, And make us heirs of all eternity. Therefore, brave conquerors !- for so you are, That war against your own affections, And the huge army of the world's desires,Our late edict shall strongly stand in force. Navarre shall be the wonder of the world : Our court shall be a little Academe, Still and contemplative in living art. You three, Biron, Dumaine, and Longaville, Have sworn for three years' term to live with me, My fellow-scholars, and to keep those statutes,
That are recorded in this schedule here:
Long. I am resolv'd; 'tis but a three years' fast. The mind shall banquet, though the body pine: Fat paunches have lean pates; and dainty bits Make rich the ribs, but bankrupt quite the wits.
Dum. My loving lord, Dumaine is mortified. The grosser manner of these world's delights He throws upon the gross world's baser slaves : To love, to wealth, to pomp, I pine and die, With all these living, in philosophy.
Biron. I can but say their protestation over;
And but one meal on every day beside,
King. Your oath is pass'd to pass away from these.
Biron. Let me say no, my liege, an if you please. I only swore to study with your grace, And stay here in your court for three years' space.
Long. You swore to that, Biron, and to the rest. Biron. By yea, and nay, sir, then I swore in jest. What is the end of study, let me know? King. Why, that to know which else we should
not know. Biron. Things hid and barr’d, you mean, from
common sense? King. Ay, that is study's god-like recompense. Biron. Come on, then: I will swear to study
To know the thing I am forbid to know;
When I to feast expressly am forbid;
When mistresses from common sense are hid;
King. These be the stops that hinder study quite, And train our intellects to vain delight. Biron. Why, all delights are vain; but that most
vain, Which, with pain purchas'd, doth inherit pain : As painfully to pore upon a book,
To seek the light of truth; while truth the while Doth falsely blind the eyesight of his look:
Light, seeking light, doth light of light beguile. So, ere you find where light in darkness lies, Your light grows dark by losing of your eyes. Study me how to please the eye indeed,
By fixing it upon a fairer eye;
And give him light that it was blinded by.
That will not be deep-search'd with saucy looks: Small have continual plodders ever won,
Save base authority from others' books. These earthly godfathers of heaven's lights,
That give a name to every fixed star, Have no more profit of their shining nights,
Than those that walk, and wot not what they are. Too much to know is to know nought but fame; And every godfather can give a name. King. How well he's read, to reason against
reading! Dum. Proceeded well, to stop all good proceeding! Long. He weeds the corn, and still lets grow the
weeding. Biron. The spring is near, when green geese are
a breeding. Dum. How follows that? Biron.
Fit in his place and time. Dum. In reason nothing. Biron.
Something, then, in rhyme. King. Biron is like an envious sneaping frost,
That bites the first-born infants of the spring.
Biron. Well, say I am: why should proud sum
mer boast, Before the birds have any cause to sing? Why should I joy in any abortive birth ? At Christmas I no more desire a rose, Than wish a snow in May's new-fangled shows; But like of each thing that in season grows. So you, to study now it is too late, Climb o'er the house to unlock the little gate. King. Well, .sit you out: go home, Biron :
adieu! Biron. No, my good lord; I have sworn to stay And, though I have for barbarism spoke more,
Than for that angel knowledge you can say, Yet confident I'll keep what I have swore,
And bide the penance of each three years' day. Give me the paper: let me read the same; And to the strict'st decrees I'll write my name. King. How well this yielding rescues thee from
shame! Biron. [Reads.] Item, “That no woman shall come within a mile of my court."-Hath this been proclaim'd?
Long. Four days ago.
Biron. Let's see the penalty. [Reads.] “On pain of losing her tongue.”—Who devis'd this penalty?
Long. Marry, that did I.
Sweet lord, and why?
[Reads.] Item, “If any man be seen to talk with a woman within the term of three years, he shall endure such public shame as the rest of the court can possibly devise."This article, my liege, yourself must break;
For, well you know, here comes in embassy The French king's daughter with yourself to
speak,A maid of grace, and complete majesty,About surrender up of Aquitain
To her decrepit, sick, and bed-rid father: Therefore, this article is made in vain,
Or vainly comes th' admired princess hither. King. What say you, lords ? why, this was quite
forgot. Biron. So study evermore is overshot: While it doth study to have what it would, It doth forget to do the thing it should; And when it hath the thing it hunteth most, 'Tis won, as towns with fire; so won, so lost. King. We must of force dispense with this
decree : She must lie here on mere necessity.
Biron. Necessity will make us all forsworn Three thousand times within this three years'
Not by might master'd, but by special grace.
[Subscribes. And he, that breaks them in the least degree, Stands in attainder of eternal shame.
Suggestions are to others, as to me;